Emphasize the “Learning” in “Extended Learning Time” – by Betsy Hill

There seem to be a lot of people talking about extending the school day lately.

On the pro side of the argument are those who believe that our students’ ability to compete in a global economy requires more time devoted to academics.  In some cases, the champions of the longer day identify the need as remedial; some students need more time and more instruction, they say.  In other cases, the need identified is enrichment – and extending the day is about restoring time that has been removed from the school day for arts or foreign language or other enrichment activities focused on 21t century skills.

Opponents of an extended school day tend to focus on the increased costs and on the lack of clear direction for what exactly is supposed to be achieved in that extra time.  Some critics of the concept assert that the time in the current school day could be better used.  And often teachers are not supportive of extending the school day, for all the reasons that one might imagine.

There can be a variety of reasons for extending the school day, but the critical thing according to most of the schools that have taken the step is to not just to offer more of the same in the extra time. If you combine all those different inputs, what schools need to fill the time of the extended day is something that:

  • Is different that what typically goes on in the school day
  • Serves as enrichment
  • Serves as an intervention, for students whose progress is lagging
  • Will enhance all students’ academic performance
  • Gets students motivated and engaged in learning
  • Does not require a significant amount of additional teacher preparation or lesson planning

It may seem strange, but there actually are such things – perhaps not a lot, but cognitive skills development is one of them.  Programs like BrainWare SAFARI, SkateKids and Ramps To Reading are ideally suited to make “learning” the focus of “Extended Learning Time.”  They will challenge students who need more challenge.  They will help students who are behind to catch up.  They are fundamentally and demonstrably about helping students learn to learn.

If you have questions or thoughts about how cognitive skills development fills the bill for an extended learning time environment, I invite you to comment on this blog or email me directly at bhill@mybrainware.com

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